Monthly Archives: March 2018

Get Over It

WFTB Score: 7/20

The plot: Young Berke Landers is distraught when Allison, his girlfriend of sixteen months, dumps him for a handsome former boy-band member. He is determined to win her back but when cast alongside her in the school play finds himself torn between Allison and his friend’s sister Kelly.

Depending on the timing of your visit to WFTB, you may well arrive at this review before I have put up reviews of Battleship Potemkin, Citizen Kane or The Godfather. All I can offer by way of excuse is that Tommy O’Haver’s work was on TV on a quiet night one Friday and I wrote this before I expunged all memories of the film from my brain.

I would guess that I am not the target audience for Get Over It, a teen comedy dealing with Berke Landers’ (Ben Foster) reaction to being dumped by Allison (Melissa Sagemiller); I would also guess, however, that I am not exactly the target audience for Ten Things I Hate About You and I can still see that the earlier film was far superior to this one. I bring Ten Things up specifically as it uses a very similar device to Get Over It, namely using a Shakespeare play as both part of the story and the basis for the plot.

Here, the play plundered is A Midsummer Nights’ Dream, complete with added songs written by the show’s picky, abusive teacher, Dr Desmond Forrest Oates (Martin Short). Despite clashing with basketball, Berke sees the play as a way of winning Allison back, even though her new beau ‘Striker’ (Shane West, sporting a ghastly, mangled approximation of an English accent) is guaranteed a lead role. He is guided in his quest by Kelly (Kirsten Dunst), a talented songwriter and sister of Berke’s best friend Felix. When Striker reveals his true colours at a party and is caught kissing another girl, Allison asks Berke to give the relationship another go. However, Berke has fallen in love with Kelly and changes the play so that his character, Lysander, stays with Kelly’s Helena.

It’s a cute little story, but doesn’t match up to the comedies it tries to emulate, most obviously Ten Things and American Pie. The problem is that the script is either written by an adolescent or aimed solely with adolescents in mind, so whilst it is clearly obsessed with sex – there’s a humping dog, Berke’s parents present a sex-education show – it is very coy about the act itself, instead making a big play of Berke and Kelly kissing. Are we to assume Berke and Allison never got it on?

Overexcitement about women abounds. Berke goes out on a date with a clumsy student (Kylie Dax, very nice but clearly older than the youngsters), firstly showing her running along the beach in a bikini. She causes chaos in the restaurant, leading to another woman having her top ripped off in a scene familiar to anyone who has watched Class, and causing a boy to shout the immortal words: ‘Tits, wow!’ Say what you like about Citizen Kane, it doesn’t have a line to match that. Elsewhere, a trip to a pretty tame strip club is just an excuse to wheel out Carmen Electra for another undistinguished cameo.

Get Over It doesn’t handle sex or gross-out humour as well as American Pie, Shakespeare as well as Ten Things I Hate About You, or dream sequence/inner thoughts as well as The Simpsons; and therein lies its mediocrity. You can’t blame the cast: Foster’s Burke is sympathetic if inconsistent, half of the time appearing as a Jason Biggs-type loser, the other half a thoughtful smooth-talker around Kelly and a hard man in confrontation with Striker. The other youngsters are fine too, forgiving West’s accent; Dunst and Sagemiller are both appealing and singer Sisqo is passable as another of Berke’s friends. Amongst the adults, Martin Short isn’t half as funny as he thinks he is as the frustrated director; Swoosie Kurtz and Ed Begley Jr are amusing as Berke’s parents, but even their liberal attitude to Berke’s adolescent indiscretions is a one-note joke.

For twelve- to sixteen-year olds, or as light Friday night material, Get Over It unchallengingly passes the time. But don’t expect to see anything that hasn’t been done before, and better, or you’ll be vaguely disappointed. Now, what to review next: Seven Samurai or Deuce Bigelow?

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Stripes

WFTB Score: 10/20

The plot: Frustrated taxi driver John Winger joins the army on a whim, taking bored teacher friend Russell Ziskey along for the ride. The harsh realities of army life bring Winger into conflict with an aggressive drill sergeant; even worse, when assigned to a top-secret European mission, John’s misadventures take him and Russell into the front line of the Cold War.

Three years before Ghostbusters became a worldwide hit, director Ivan Reitman teamed up with Bill Murray and writer/actor Harold Ramis for this military comedy that plays out like a prototypic version of Police Academy. As such, the viewer is presented with the raw recruits hitting the brick wall of authority in the shape of shouty Drill Sgt Hulka (Warren Oates), who is more than prepared to hit them back.  Behind Sgt Hulka, John Larroquette plays the voyeuristic, idiotic Captain Stillman, more concerned with watching the ladies than the progress of his troops.

Stripes is an undisciplined film, roughly put together and taking its laughs as they come – mostly from the culture clash between civilian life and the army, crystallised in the enmity between Hulka and smart-alecky John Winger (Murray). At more than twenty-five years distance, a lot of laughs are of surprise at the nature of the jokes, rather than the jokes themselves.

For instance, the film is unapologetically sexist, squeezing in an incredibly high breast count considering it is not a sex comedy per se. A lot of these breasts appear when the brigade, a motley collection of social rejects, escape for a night on the town and head straight for a topless bar. Murray organises a whip round for fellow recruit Ox (a muted John Candy) to take on a ringful of lady mud wrestlers; Ox wins, after a couple of painful-looking rounds, by dint of removing the wrestlers’ bikini tops – a police raid quickly follows. There’s nothing wrong with nudity in an adult film, in fact it’s appropriate given the trainees are likely to be sex-starved; but it’s not clear why boobs, and the women behind them, are supposed to be funny in and of themselves.

Barely better treated are John and Russell’s love interests, Military Policewomen Sean Young and PJ Soles. It’s no surprise that their characters are written to fancy John and Russell from the off, happily abandoning any sense of duty when the boys get themselves in trouble. It’s not Ramis’ fault, but it is hard to imagine Young becoming instantly smitten with someone who is more Hank (Marvin) than hunk.

Or Soles with Murray’s character, for that matter. John is an asshole, but a charming and persuasive one, and it’s Murray’s casual performance that just about carries the film. Although he is glib, mouthy and disobedient throughout, by happy accident everything he does in his army career turns out for the best. When Hulka is inadvertently blown up and Murray has to pull the recruits through the drill to avoid repeating the whole course, it’s inconceivable that he could possibly whip the recruits into shape; however, the drill is probably the comedy highlight of the whole film, making the scenario much easier to accept.

Training complete, the new soldiers are sent to Europe to protect and show off a new Urban Assault Vehicle. Murray ‘borrows’ the vehicle for some hi-jinks, leading to an incident in Czechoslovakia as Stillman gets the whole party lost in an attempt to get it back. With its comedy Russians and inexpensive-looking action sequences where there is much shooting but nobody gets shot, the final third of the film plays out exactly as you might expect and really marks the film as a time capsule. For a start, the ‘assault vehicle,’ a glorified camper van, looks silly and unthreatening; secondly, the whole political situation will be alien to anybody born after the film was released. When the country that causes so much trouble is not only no longer under Soviet Rule but no longer in existence, you know that a good deal of time has passed.

So would I recommend Stripes? As an insight into the sexual-political attitudes of the time, or a peek at the early careers of some big names in comedy, it is of some interest. For well-written comedy that will still make you laugh today, though, I might steer you away from Bill Murray’s earliest films and towards those of Steve Martin.

You can be a parent: you can have free time. You can’t have both.

Hi folks, just a further quick hello to say that I am still around and do still have film reviews, and plenty of other stuff, to throw at you. However, we recently welcomed a second child into our lives and have discovered that if one little one is enough to take up, say, 60% of your available time, having two can easily take up 120% or more.

(By the way, I’m not even remotely complaining: they’re adorable, and my dear old mum had four of us to contend with – it’s a miracle one of us wasn’t “accidentally” left in another town/country along the way. It’s just that bringing up the first one, while being a scary journey into the unknown, had a few quieter moments; with the new one, there’s also the near-constant presence of a small-ish extra body who doesn’t nap and is always very, very keen to be played with.)

I toy with the thought of doing a blog about parenting but I’m not sure that I can ultimately offer anything of real use other than ‘It’s hard, you just have to get on with it’; besides, it’s not really anyone else’s business! Still, if I do ever find the off switch for kids I promise to share it here first. Anyway, back to the films…